home | rants | mark my words
Mark my Words…
July 29, 2002

Bill replaced into a frame from "1984"
It is the end of July 2002. Five years ago this month the unimaginable happened. Bill Gates, the leader and demigod of Microsoft Corporation appeared on the large video screens at MacWorld in New York City. In a scene earily similar to the famous 1984 commercial Bill Gates promised his support of Apple Computer and announced a $100 Million dollar loan to help thru some trying times. Later that dollar figure was adjusted higher. Many people said that helping Apple stay afloat was important to Microsoft because without Apple as part of the picture Microsoft would have an even LARGER monopoly in the personal computer space.

There was a catch to the deal. It wasn't announced to the public, either that day or any other but this was the agreement. Apple Computer had to agree to use only ONE internet browser. Guess which one. Yea, Internet Explorer or IE. So what was meant by 'use only one browser'. Apple computer had to agree that Internet Explorer was preinstalled on all Macintosh computers sold. Apple had to agree that IE was the only browser used in Apple Corporate offices and Apple had to agree that in all software demos in tradeshows and elsewhere that IE was the only browser used. Effectively Microsoft wanted to perpetuate a subtle message, "there is NO OTHER browser for the Mac".

Now I'll be the first to admit that I was a diehard Netscape fan, I used it exclusively and for a long time I don't even think I had IE on my machine. That is until IE 5. Oh my, it was really good. Really good! It was smarter and cached pages more intelligently, and it rendered the pages quite nicely. There was still incompatibilities between the way pages rendered. It was amazing to me that even though HTML is supposedly a "standard" that Microsoft continued to buck everyone and just flat out CHANGE the way they would read code. But that is a completely different topic.

Apple agreed to the deal, took the money and ran. Steve Jobs was back and back in a BIG way. Soon the iMac changed the face of Apple and the rest, as they say, is history.

But surely that kind of deal can't last for ever right? That is correct! The big deal was for a limited amount of time. Five years. For that five years Apple agreed to use NO other browser and Microsoft agreed to support the Mac.

Support the Mac? But how?

One word. Office.

Microsoft Office is the single most ubiquitous piece of software to corporate America. Basically, everyone has it. If you DON'T, you can't deal with corporate America. In late 1997 just months after the deal was announced Microsoft announced Office 98 for Mac. It was HUGE. In many ways it saved Apple more then the $100 million did. It meant that with a Mac you could still communicate with the business world.

Most people don't realize that the code for Office 98, as it was called, had been ready to go for months. There is a lot of evidence that it's existence was being denied and it's POSSIBLE development was being used as a proverbial carrot to get Apple to stop it's development on Quicktime. If you don't believe me, do some Google searches, you'll find the same emails and court documents that I read.

Anyway. Here we are and it's five years later. What do we have to look forward to.

Mark my Words. The mud slinging will increase. If you listen to Steve Jobs' keynote from MWNY2002 carefully, there are some very subtle jabs at Redmond. They will increase.

Mark my Words. You will begin to see more and more crashes in IE 5.2 and beyond on your Mac running OS X. Oh sure these software glitches COULD be fixed but they are more sinister then that. They are "techno speed bumps", little anomalies in the 'road' that make you think about driving down a different street. I mean face it, it's a little browser. How can you not make a BROWSER stable. Of course Microsoft will blame it on the OS not being stable. Digital finger pointing.

Mark my Words. Apple will enter the browser market. They probably won't do well because Microsoft will break every rule that is considered a standard and make it impossible to use any browser but theirs. Apple's new iteration of Sherlock 3 is damn near a browser already. Watch the demo carefully and you'll see. It is basically a highly specialized browser. Take away the 'specialization' and it becomes a real honest to goodness browser.

Mark my Words. Microsoft will discontinue support for Office. Right now they are claiming that "sales are sluggish" on Office for OSX. They neglect to mention that the whole economy SUCKS right now and sales for EVERYTHING are down. But for the first time in, well, 5 years, Microsoft is publically questioning thier support for Macintosh.

Mark my Words. Sun and Apple will continue to develop OpenOffice, the Microsoft Office - like substitute for Unix. It will be OK BUT again, Microsoft will make compatibility impossible.

Mark my Words. Things will be rough, weird and quite possibly very bad for Apple when it comes to interoperability with corporate America.

Chris Fenwick